My Plastic Free Blog – Anna

A few words about me

I’m a bit of a womble (hate waste), and love nature! Never happier than when walking a coast path, breathing in the ocean, watching seals playing; or stomping around the Marlborough downs, around magical Avebury. Genuinely joyful at hearing birdsong, seeing bees and butterflies and picking raspberries straight from the bush.

I have a deep respect for nature, and how very reliant we, as a species are on it, not just for our physical but also mental well-being. So taking the #PlasticFreeJuly challenge was a no-brainer, and having a group of colleagues at work who were willing to do the same definitely encouraged me to make a real effort.

What did you do for Plastic Free July

Tackled plastic around my food and in my toiletries for the most part. And had a lot of conversations about reducing single-use plastic and unnecessary packaging. Experienced some easy ‘wins’ but also some frustrating ‘fails’, and learned what stops me and other people from doing more – from physical ‘barriers’ to the little gremlins we all experience when faced with the prospect of inconvenience that fight against behaviour change.

Toiletries were the quickest and easiest ‘win’ with the least effort. I bought a bamboo toothbrush, and continued buying unpackaged bar soap, refills of Suma shampoo (palm-oil free & lavender scented), washing up and laundry liquids, coir washing-up pads and paper & cotton based sanitary products (all from swindon-pulse.co.uk). I also continued my loo paper subscription (https://uk.whogivesacrap.org no plastic – not sure what it means for carbon footprint in all though). There were challenges around deodorant, toothpaste and face cream that I could not overcome (though ‘toothy tabs’ have recently become available too), and make-up presents a problem because most of that is also packaged in non-reusable plastic.

Food was more challenging. I made my own oat milk (to avoid tetra packs that my usual plant-based ‘milk’ comes in), started baking bread using pre-mixed kits rather than buying plastic-wrapped bread and bought white rice in paper bags from the local Polish shop. I went to the farmers market more regularly to stock up on non-plastic wrapped local veg (also reducing air-miles and supporting local farmers) and stopped buying fruit in plastic.

When popping in to the local mini supermarket to buy a lunch-time roll I left a trail of slightly bemused shop assistants when carrying it to the till in my hand, rather than in one of the plastic baggies. They would ask “are there no plastic bags there?”. My response of “I’m avoiding single use plastic” did get some odd looks – to start with.

Bamboo Toothbrushes… an easy change

At work I kicked-off a monthly litter pick as part of the employee-led sustainability group – which also put on a very well attended awareness-day at the beginning of July, when we ‘launched’ a basic plastic-free toolkit and challenged people to make ‘plastic-free pledges’!

The toothbrush swap was the easiest action, probably because the behaviour change required is minimal, switching to bamboo is relatively cheap and you only need to buy one of these every few months.

Since July

A mix of successes and challenges (fails).
I still buy my shampoo, laundry& washing up liquid as refills – it takes a bit of organising but is really quite easy too.

More challenging is being organised enough to bake my own bread, lunch, and switch to drinking loose leaf and loose herb teas. The teas still come wrapped in plastic but only one plastic package is needed instead of multiple tea-bags, and loose herbs can also be found at Pulse.

The work-place litter-pick continues, and 6 months on staff still come out in almost all weathers – it’s been brilliant for raising awareness of the scale and the problem of littering in general and of the menace of single use plastics; and has started some great conversations about plastic pollution and other environmental issues, both among our litter picking group and other colleagues.

It seems to have helped litter bugs to clean up their act too! We have noticed during our continued picks that the amount of litter we are finding has reduced from month to month.

Final thoughts

The use of single use plastic is so prevalent that I do find it overwhelming. Despite everything we know about the environmental problems that it has caused, action around reducing its use in packaging is still too slow! It is however used to prolong the (shelf)life of produce such as soft fruit and veg in supermarkets, where these products are often transported over long distances in large quantities and therefore need to be protected in order to reduce waste before they reach the shelves. Plastic here, in my view, is a symptom of other issues such as food waste which is not exclusive to, but is exacerbated by supermarket shopping (https://saynotofoodwaste.org/what-can-you-do/supermarkets/) and is related to climate change, soil health, and pressure on local farmers, in the UK (see https://feedbackglobal.org/campaigns/gleaning-network/) and beyond (https://staging.clearhonestdesign.com/feedback/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Farm_waste_report_.pdf).